Purdue University OWL (Online Writing Lab)
1. UNDERSTAND THE ASSIGNMENT AND SELECT YOUR TOPIC
State your topic idea as a question.
Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question.
2. FIND BACKGROUND INFORMATION IN REFERENCE SOURCES
Once you have selected key terms for your topic, look for them in an encyclopedia, dictionary or other reference resource. Review definitions of terms and identify other terms used to describe the concepts. Are your terms accurate? Investigate background information to identify important issues, events, and people associated with your topic. Then search for books and articles using these key terms that describe the concepts, issues, events, and people.
3. USE CATALOGS TO FIND BOOKS
Start with keyword searching, review results and identify subject headings. Note the citation (author, title,etc.), the location information (call number and library), and circulation status.
4. USE DATABASES TO FIND PERIODICAL ARTICLES
Search index databases to find articles on your topic. Many will include the full-text of the article. Remember, many databases are accessible both in the library and off-campus through the campus network.
5. FIND INTERNET RESOURCES
Use search engines and subject directories to locate materials on the Web. Information on the Internet varies in its reliability; before using information from a website, review the Website Evaluation guidelines.
6. EVALUATE WHAT YOU FIND / REVIEW YOUR PROGRESS
Evaluate the authority and quality of the materials you have located. Consider the author, publisher, and date of each resource. Is the material biased? Is it comprehensive? Who is the intended audience? Is the material of scholarly value?
After you have completed the previous steps, examine the information you have collected. Ask yourself the following questions:
Does it answer the topic question you posed in Step 1?
Is your topic question too general?
Does it need to be more specific?
Do you need more information about any aspect of your topic?
After you answer these questions, return to Step 1 and repeat the process.
7. CITE WHAT YOU FIND USING A STANDARD FORMAT
Avoid plagiarism and use a style manual to be sure to correctly format your citations for both print and electronic resources. Check with your instructor about which citation style you should use. Learn more about Citing Sources.
RESEARCH IS A PROCESS, YOU WILL TRY ONE SEARCH, EVALUATE YOUR RESULTS, MODIFY YOUR STRATEGY AND TRY AGAIN.
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